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Now it's bigger than ever, with 10 core staff, most of them under 30 years old, managing nearly 300 volunteers, 300 media, and the nearly 300 people that make up sponsorship marketing teams setting up tents around the Village. And then there's booking music acts, organizing the arts competitions and the awards and the prizes and the parties and on and on. It's a months-long process that demands the cooperation of everyone in the office and beyond.
"It's this world class event but at the same time it's a community event as well," Eckersley says. " There are so many people who are a part of this event and have been a part of this event and there is so much that goes on behind the scenes... that it's something that is very unique."
As a community event everyone at Watermark has to interact with the town's major players -the RMOW, Tourism Whistler, and so on.
"We always say right before the event that we're throwing a big party," says Jasmine Robinson, the festival's creative director. "It's a big town party and everyone loves it and everyone has fun."
The festival is also an important economic driver for the resort at a time when it shoulder-season blues are setting in.
A third-party report done in 2006, the most recent available, showed the festival brought $21.3 million to Whistler.
Arlene Schieven says the festival has been vital to extending the ski season and in previous years has had a positive impact on visitors' overall impressions of Whistler.
"It is responsible for our success in April," she says. "Occupancy on the weekend nights averages around 70 per cent and higher even in some other years. We've had weekends where it's been near 80 per cent, and that's really, really strong for the end of the ski season and that speaks volumes to the importance of the festival."
The arts and music offerings play a huge part in that as well, as they attract a demographic that may have little or no interest in the sports component.
"In our research, we've found that the number one influence for why people come to the festival is the music," Eckersley says.
The calibre of acts completely depends on sponsorship dollars. Ninety-three per cent of the festival's revenues are made up of sponsorship dollars and while some years have been loaded with funds, other years, particularly in 2010, have been more challenging. Following the Olympics, many sponsors and media had already visited Whistler once and Watermark found it more challenging than other years to draw them back out.
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